Ford Motor Co Transit Connect commercial vans refitted to run on electric power by Azure Dynamics have begun shipping to customers in North America and Britain, the companies said on Monday.
The Transit Connect Electric is the first of Ford's electrified vehicles. It is launching on a much smaller scale for commercial customers while the automaker's first mass-market all-electric, a Focus compact sedan, rolls out in late 2011.
The vans are assembled at AM General in Livonia in suburban Detroit. Currently a single shift produces about seven or eight electric Transit Connect vans per week, and more shifts will be added with rising demand, said Scott Staley, a chief engineer with Ford.
Azure Dynamics, like Ford and AM General based just outside Detroit, plans to sell 600 to 1,000 of the commercial vans in 2011 and double that in 2012.
Azure Dynamics used some off-the-shelf existing technology to make the vehicle powertrains electric, which helped bring the vehicle to market 13 months after Ford announced a collaboration with Azure, Staley said.
The electric Transit Connect vans have a targeted range of 80 miles, or about 130 kilometers, on a full charge.
Fourteen of the vehicles are on their way to Britain, where they will be part of the government's ultra-low carbon vehicle demonstrator program.
The electric vans are useful for companies whose drivers have predictable routes, and where the vehicles can recharge at night, said Staley.
Azure has announced deals with seven companies to take the initial refitted Transit Connect vans, including private U.S. utility companies and Canadian governmental agencies.